Ohio Lawmakers Introduce House Bill to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

A new bill recently introduced by Ohio lawmakers seeks to legalize recreational marijuana in the Buckeye State.

According the House Bill 168's language, it would allow for the cultivation, purchase, and possession of cannabis by adult Ohio residents over the age of 21. It would also allow some previous criminal offenses to be expunged from state records.

Ohio law currently considers possession of up to 100 grams, or 3.5 ounces, of cannabis to be a minor misdemeanor that is pushishable by a fine of $150. Cannabis is already legal to patients enrolled in the Ohio's medical cannabis program.

The bi-partisan bill was introduced earlier this month by democrat State Representative Casey Weinstein, of Hudson, and republican State Representative Jamie Callender, of Concord.

“It’s time for Ohio to act on this before we fall too much further behind our neighbors,” said Rep. Weinstein. “Adult-use is good for our economy, good for our justice system, and the right thing to do. Ohioans are ready to legalize cannabis, and I am proud to offer this bipartisan bill to get it done.”

“Through the expansion of Ohio’s successful Medical Marijuana program to all Ohioans, we will not only be building upon best practices from around the country but utilizing the lessons learned here in Ohio,” said Rep. Callender. “With the nation increasingly heading towards the de-scheduling of cannabis products at the federal level, Ohio has an opportunity to get ahead of the curve in developing its cannabis industry.”

Under the bill, Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program would be extended to also regulate the non-medical cultivation, processing, sale, and adult-use of cannabis products. It would be renamed the Division of Marijuana Control to reflect its role in running both the medical marijuana and adult-use programs and be housed within the Department of Commerce.

The bill currently awaits a committee assignment and sponsor testimony.

As of this spring, 22 states and the District of Columbia have legalized adult recreational marijuana, and 38 states allow for medical use of cannabis. Action is also being taken at the Federal level to de-schedule cannabis.

HB 168 however comes with a proposed sales tax rate 10-percent on cannabis products. Tax revenue would be distributed in part to support primary and secondary (K-12) education, communities that host dispensaries, combatting chemical dependence and illegal drug trafficking, and to the state General Revenue Fund.

According to figures included in a report on Ohio's Medical Cannabis Program, updated on April 26th, 2023, there has been nearly $1.3-billion worth of medical cannabis products sold in Ohio since licensed sales of medical cannabis began in the State in mid-January of 2019.

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